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Stop Overdosing on Celebrity Gossip, News, and Low Quality Information

Stop Overdosing on Celebrity Gossip, News, and Low Quality Information

How much time do you spend consuming information that you have no intention of taking action on or that you don’t care deeply about? For example: the nightly news cycle of local crimes, the endless stream of Facebook and Twitter updates, celebrity gossip, reality TV shows, Buzzfeed articles. The list goes on forever.

In this age of information overload, your life can be filled with irrelevant or unnecessary information in an instant. And here’s the main problem:

After a while, these information sources start to become normal. Pretty soon, you’re logging onto Facebook because of the fear of missing out on “something.” You turn on the news or check CNN, not because you care about a particular topic, but merely out of habit. You watch tonight’s reality TV show because that’s what you always do on Thursdays at 8pm.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for learning and soaking up new information. After all, education is one of the master keys to the universe. And staying up-to-date on important stories can help shape your worldview and make you a good global citizen. But it is becoming dangerously easy to consume low quality information and convince yourself that it’s normal and good, when it isn’t helping you live a better life at all.

Circles of Concern vs. Circles of Control

In Steven Covey’s best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he covers the difference between Circles of Concern and Circles of Control. Circles of Concern are the things that you often waste time and energy worrying about, but that you have little to no control over. Meanwhile, Circles of Control are the things that you can influence in your daily life.

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As an example, the vast majority of news stories — war and terrorism, the economy and stock prices, celebrity gossip and political scandal — fall squarely in the Circle of Concern. They can easily soak up your time and energy, but you have virtually no control over those events.

Other examples include getting angry about what someone posted on Facebook, worrying about what other people think about you, or wishing your kids would make better choices (a valid wish, but still outside of your control). As you can see in the image below, worrying about Circles of Concern is a hallmark of reactive people, while focusing on Circles of Control is a trait of proactive people.

circle-concern-control
    Graphic by James Clear. (Note: I modeled this image off of the graphics in this article written by Pete at Mr. Money Mustache.)

    Notice that by eliminating or reducing your Circle of Concern, you have more time and energy to put towards your Circle of Control. That means you have more mental space to use for creating art, starting a business, having meaningful conversations, or otherwise contributing to the world around you.

    On the flip side, the heavy barrage of information in our society can easily push most of your time and energy into Circles of Concern if you let it. What about the war? What about the economy? What about the choices of XYZ politician? If you’re constantly surrounded by these topics it’s easy to let them capture your time and energy — even if you realize that you can’t do very much about them.

    When you’re overdosing on information that you can’t act on it’s easy to see why people say things like “it’s a messed up world out there” or “somebody needs to fix it.” Why make an effort when everything seems out of your control?

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    Create Space, So That You Can Create

    Do external things distract you? Then make time for yourself to learn something worthwhile; stop letting yourself be pulled in all directions.
    —Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

    Time and energy that is wasted consuming is time and energy that can’t be spent creating. It’s better to step into the arena and get your ass handed to you — whether that means starting a business and failing, creating art that is terrible, writing something nobody reads, or taking a risk that is important to you — than it is to passively sit and consume information.

    It’s great to learn new skills, follow story lines that are important to you, and become an engaged and thoughtful citizen, but sadly most consumption doesn’t fall into those categories.

    What Kind of Food is Your Brain Eating

    The problem with most news, gossip, and link-bait titled articles online is that they are filled with surface level information. Your life isn’t better off for reading them and you’re rarely better informed because of them.

    Of course, there are plenty of wonderful sources of information out there. The New York Times has many fantastic writers on various topics. As a personal example, I love learning about medicine and I often read Atul Gawande’s lengthy articles in The New Yorker. But I don’t browse the internet passively and stumble upon his articles. I seek them out with intention and purpose.

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    And that is the main point…

    The world doesn’t need more people who mindlessly digest whatever information is around. What the world needs are people who learn with purpose, who take action on the things that are important to them, and who seek out high quality information as a way to spark creativity — not as an excuse to consume even more.

    What type of food are you feeding your brain? You wouldn’t want to stuff your body with low quality food. Why cram your mind with low quality thoughts?

    So, Where Do You Go From Here?

    Not all news is bad. For example, learning about the latest war can make me grateful to live in a stable society and keep my life in perspective. But if we’re being honest, there is a lot of information that fills our daily lives, clogs our minds, and prevents us from creating, building, sharing, and experiencing more important things.

    Most of the information you come across in your daily life — the news stories, the social media updates, the television shows — isn’t going to change the choices you make. Instead of sitting around and consuming whatever is readily available, challenge yourself to make more conscious choices about what you consume and how you consume it.

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    Do you really need social media apps on your phone? Or will you be just fine checking Facebook and Twitter when you get home? Is it necessary to turn on the same news program every night? Are you living a better life because of watching it?

    If something isn’t benefiting you, then eliminate it.

    And if you do care about something like the latest political scandal, then be intentional about getting quality information on that topic. And more importantly, take some action on it. It’s great to be smart, but it’s better to be helpful.

    James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he shares science-based ideas for living a better life and building habits that stick. To get strategies for boosting your mental and physical performance by 10x, join his free newsletter.

    This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.

    Featured photo credit: Pierre B. via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on September 16, 2019

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

    We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

    The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

    Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

    1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

    Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

    For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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    • (1) Research
    • (2) Deciding the topic
    • (3) Creating the outline
    • (4) Drafting the content
    • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
    • (6) Revision
    • (7) etc.

    Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

    2. Change Your Environment

    Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

    One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

    3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

    Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

    Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

    My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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    Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

    If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

    Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

    I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

    5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

    I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

    Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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    As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

    6. Get a Buddy

    Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

    I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

    7. Tell Others About Your Goals

    This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

    For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

    8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

    What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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    9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

    If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

    Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

    10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

    Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

    Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

    11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

    At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

    Reality check:

    I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

    More About Procrastination

    Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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